Gujarat: BJP banks on PM Modi, Congress on local issues & AAP on freebies
17 November, 2022 | Riya Girdhar
Modi's standard campaign pitch in Gujarat—"dual engine development"—was also the BJP's strategy in the recently concluded Himachal Pradesh election.
While Gujarat prepares for a triangular election, possibly for the first time in its electoral history, with the BJP, Congress, and AAP forming the three angles, the ruling BJP is hoping for a comeback based on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and his regular poll pitch—double engine development—and that voting for ‘kamal’ is a “direct vote for him.”
That was also the BJP’s strategy in the recently concluded Himachal Pradesh election, as well as in countless other states where it faced the critical anti-incumbency factor.
The BJP is looking at a massive anti-incumbency factor in Gujarat, which is why it dropped senior ministers and sitting MLAs in favour of new faces.
While the ruling party’s candidates are campaigning in the name of the Prime Minister, the opposition Congress is said to be running a “silent campaign” (as PM Modi warned in one of his speeches) in contrast to an aggressive one led by Rahul Gandhi in 2017 with the young force of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor, and Jignesh Mevani who have opted out of the party like many other Congress leaders in the past five years.
In the absence of top leaders from the campaign thus far, observers say the Congress is focusing on “local issues” and “ignoring” PM Modi because “nothing sticks on him.”
Gandhi, who has been focusing on his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra,’ is expected to take a break and join the Gujarat campaign around November 22.
In addition, the party, moving ahead of the theory of ‘KHAM’ (Kshatriyas, OBCs, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim), is now working on ‘BADAM’ this time, which includes OBC, Dalits, Adivasis, and Muslims, according to experts, which is mostly the same combination the BJP is working on minus the minority community which the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
“The Congress has a rural hold on farmers, Adivasis, Dalits, cattle growers, dairy farmers, and other marginalised communities,” they add.
It remains to be seen whether the AIMIM will be a spoiler for the Congress or the AAP, as Muslims are not among the BJP’s target audience.
Muslims make up approximately 9% of the state’s population.
Meanwhile, AAP is a “challenger” for the Congress and a “irritant” for the BJP, though both refer to it as their “B team.” The Congress, which frequently refers to the AAP and AIMIM as the BJP’s “B team,” has also kept its freebie promises in rural areas.
While Kejriwal has been promising education and health care, as well as free electricity, and avoiding references to Muslim issues or the Bilkis Bano case, he appears to have gone low-key recently. According to observers, he is gaining traction among those seeking an alternative to the BJP and the Congress.
Hindutva, or nationalism, is the BJP’s stronghold, and Kejriwal can expect to win over undecided Hindu voters in the cities.